What is comprehensive and collision coverage?
Comprehensive and collision coverage are the two types of car insurance coverage for physical damage to your vehicle. Comprehensive and collision coverages protect your car, while liability coverage – which is mandatory in most states – protects you when you cause bodily injury or property damage to others.
Liability, collision, and comprehensive work together to protect you in the event of an accident. Comprehensive and collision are separate, optional coverages that allow you to make claims for damage or total loss of your vehicle, regardless of fault.
You might have heard that carrying comp and collision is “full coverage.” That can be deceiving. Collision and comprehensive cover many situations, but they do not cover everything.
Collision insurance covers your vehicle in these scenarios:
- Your vehicle hits another vehicle
- Your vehicle is hit by another vehicle
- When you hit a stationary object (e.g. tree, fence, house)
- Unintentional flipping, rolling or overturning of your vehicle
Collision covers your car from accident damages, regardless of fault. To make a claim, you will need to pay your deductible, and then your coverage will pay the remaining cost of repairs or for the total loss of your vehicle.
The word “comprehensive” can be misleading. Comprehensive, also known as “other than collision,” does cover a variety of situations that collision does not. Since the details of comprehensive insurance can vary, it’s a good idea to carefully review your car insurance policy to understand exactly what is covered.
Comprehensive insurance generally covers your vehicle in these scenarios:
- Glass damage
- Damage from flying missiles (defined as any flying or propelled object, like an item falling off a vehicle) or falling objects (trees, boulders, etc.)
- Striking an animal
- Damage due to natural events or severe weather (e.g. hail, wind, tornado, or hurricane)
If your vehicle is damaged due to one of these perils, after paying your deductible, your comprehensive coverage pays for the repairs or total loss up to the actual cash value of your car.
Comprehensive coverage can be especially confusing to drivers from other countries who are used to buying “comprehensive insurance” that includes liability and physical damages (also known as “third-party coverage” abroad) all rolled into one policy.
Having both comprehensive and collision on your vehicle protects you against many situations, but not everything. It doesn’t cover the following situations:
- Wear and tear
- Mechanical failure (not related to an accident)
- Electrical failure
- Custom equipment that wasn’t listed and specifically covered on the policy or custom-equipment endorsement
- Additional damage caused by failing to take preventative measures
- Intentional actions
- Criminal actions (damages during your attempt to evade police)
- Confiscation or destruction of your vehicle by law enforcement
And while not likely, coverage also excludes damage resulting from these extreme scenarios:
- Nuclear exposure or explosion
- Bio-chemical attack
Comprehensive coverage covers vehicle theft, but not everything in it. Neither your collision nor comprehensive coverage covers the following:
- Personal items damaged in or stolen out of your vehicle
- Damaged or stolen electronic equipment that wasn’t originally installed in your vehicle (Many aftermarket electronics require an additional endorsement.)
A household exclusion in your liability coverage means that you cannot use liability coverage for a household member. The household exclusion keeps someone in your household from making a liability claim against your car’s liability policy. You would instead use your collision coverage.
For example, if one spouse backs into the other’s car when pulling out of the driveway, and both are badly impaired, two collision claims would need to be made for the repairs. Deductibles would typically be due on each claim.
The main component of an auto insurance policy is your liability coverage, since states require drivers/ car owners have a way to compensate those who they harm with a vehicle. Comprehensive and collision are separate, optional policies that you can buy to complement your coverage.
- Liability auto coverage – Liability auto insurance is divided into two parts: bodily injury liability (BI) and property damage liability (PD). These two parts work together to compensate others to whom you’ve caused harm with your vehicle, thereby protecting your assets.
- Uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage – Bodily injury coverage you can obtain, and is required in some states, that will help cover your medical expenses if you’re injured by a driver that has insufficient or no insurance.
- Uninsured motorist property damage coverage – Required in a few states and available as optional coverage in a few other states, it helps cover repair costs if your vehicle is damaged by an uninsured motorist. It typically has low limits, so collision is a better choice if you want better protection for your vehicle.
- Personal injury protection (PIP) or MedPay - These coverages pay for your auto accident related injuries, regardless of fault, up to your limits. Most states that require PIP are termed “no fault” states and your PIP coverage is primary, even if another party is at fault and carries bodily injury liability coverage.
Comprehensive and collision are optional coverages, as no state requires you to carry either of them.
If you’re leasing or financing your vehicle, the financial company will demand you carry comp and collision until the car is paid off or turned in. The car is the asset of the financial institution and, as the lender, it has the right to require you to get this coverage, carry a deductible (usually only $500 or less is required), and get any damage repaired.
Some car insurance providers only offer comprehensive if you also include collision on your policy. It’s rare to carry just one or the other. But in some instances, such as storing a vehicle and not driving it, it might make sense to have comprehensive but not collision. You’ll need to check to see if separate coverages are available with your insurance company.
Comprehensive and collision are a must if you want to file claims with your car insurance company for most types of damage to your car, including its total loss. There is no other type of insurance that will cover your vehicle in this way.
Property damage liability – the kind of coverage you’re required to have – does not cover your vehicle in any way. If you don’t add comprehensive and collision, your vehicle will have no coverage under your car insurance policy.
If you’re at fault in an accident, collision coverage is the only way to make a car insurance claim for your vehicle’s damage or total loss. Without it, you’ll have to pay out of pocket yourself.
If your car is struck by an uninsured driver, you can make a collision claim and your car insurance company will pay for your repairs, minus your deductible, and then go after the responsible party for compensation. That is much easier than you trying to get the uninsured party to personally pay for your damages, which could end up with you seeking a judgment against the other party in court.
What you pay for comp and collision depends on various factors, such as your driving record, the vehicle you’re insuring, and where you live. View the chart below to find the average cost of collision and comprehensive coverage in your state.
Average price of collision and comprehensive by state for 2013
Source: © 2016 National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).
Unlike liability insurance, you don’t choose a maximum limit for collision and comprehensive. Instead, the limit to the coverage is determined by the worth of your vehicle. The most your collision or comprehensive coverage will pay out is the actual cash value (ACV) of your vehicle. The ACV is the fair-market value of your vehicle the moment before the accident occurred.
In comparison, with property damage liability insurance, you choose a maximum limit, and if you damage someone else’s car, your policy will pay up to your limit amount. If the person’s repair costs exceed your liability limit, you may be sued and be held responsible for paying the remaining costs.
The exception to the ACV limit for comp or collision coverage is if you’ve insured a classic or specialty car and choose an agreed-on value policy. This is what you need if you’ve spent a lot of money restoring an older car and book value doesn’t reflect the car’s true worth. With this special type of coverage, you determine the value of the vehicle at the onset of the policy.
A deductible is the amount you pay out-of-pocket before your car insurance coverage goes into effect to pay the remaining costs of repairs or actual cash value for a totaled vehicle. Deductibles are per incident, so each time you make a collision or comprehensive claim, you’ll owe a deductible.
Some policies allow you to select a zero deductible for glass breakage. In Florida, Kentucky, and South Carolina, the state requires the comprehensive deductible be waived for glass repairs. In Florida, this is only for windshield repairs or replacement, and in Kentucky and South Carolina, it’s for all glass breakage.
Deductibles typically run from $250 to $1,000, though some insurers allow higher – up to $2,500. If your car is leased or financed, normally your contract will require your deductible be set at a certain amount, typically $500 or lower.
You should decide your deductible amount based on what you could reasonably pay if your car is damaged or totaled. However, that doesn’t mean you should just pick the cheapest deductible available; you can save money by going with a higher amount. When you choose a higher deductible, the insurer is taking on less risk by avoiding smaller claims, so it rewards you by lowering your premium on that portion of the policy. The trade-off is that your insurer won’t pay out for minor accidents that cost less than your deductible.
Choosing a lower deductible means that you can file claims for minor accidents, but it will raise your annual premium, and perhaps encourage you to make more claims. Filing claims, especially multiple claims in a short period of time, can increase your car insurance rates. If you make too many claims, your auto insurance provider might cancel or not renew your policy. Though there’s no clear definition of “too many claims,” it will center on showing a pattern of risk that costs your insurer money on your policy.
Choosing a higher deductible will lower your car insurance, but it might make it difficult to have the money available when repairs are needed. For instance, if you’re unable to pay a $1,000 deductible for $4,000 worth of repairs, your insurer can wait to pay its portion, leaving your damaged car stuck in your driveway instead of at the shop. Or, your insurer may pay its portion, but your car won’t be released from the mechanic until you pay your deductible to the shop.
The table below shows, on average by state, how much you can expect raising or lowering your deductible to affect your rates. This chart assumes liability limits of 100/300/100, state-required coverages and comprehensive and collision coverages.
Reduction on average premium by state by raising deductible
|State||Increasing deductible from $250 to $500||Percent discount||Increasing deductible from $500 to $1000||Percent discount|
*Data collected by Quadrant Information Services using six large insurance carriers. Averages are based on policies for a 2016 Honda Accord LX run in 10 zip codes in each state for single men and women ages 18 to 85 who commute 12 miles to work each day.
On average, expect to save around 10 percent on your premium by electing to raise your deductible. If $1,000 is easily available to you, then the savings is a no-brainer. If the money will be difficult to come by, and you’ll risk not being able to pay to have your car repaired, then paying the higher annual premium will be justified when the times comes to file a claim and you’re not stuck without a vehicle.
Beyond choosing a higher deductible, you can save on collision and comprehensive premiums by receiving discounts. Always ask your insurer if you’re receiving all the available discounts that should apply to your situation.
Discounts vary by insurer and by state, but here is a list of typical discounts:
- Completing a driver training or accident prevention course
- Multi-car discount
- New car discount
- Alternative fuel or hybrid car
- Good student discount
- Student away
- Good driver
- Low mileage
- Pay-as-you-drive programs
Vehicles with certain features may also be eligible for collision discounts:
- Anti-lock brakes
- Traction control systems
- Electronic stability systems
- Daytime running lights
- Good student
- Student away
- Good driver
- Anti-theft devices
- VIN etching on a vehicle
- Multiple vehicles on policy
- Alternative fuel or hybrid car
You can only make a claim if the cost of repairs is higher than your deductible amount. Before the deductible amount is reached, you are responsible for the cost of repairs to your vehicle.
If your claim amount won’t be much more than your deductible amount, it may still be worth it to pay out-of-pocket and not make a claim, which can affect your future rates.
For instance, if your claim is $700 and your deductible is $500, it’s worth looking at your finances to see if you can afford the whole $700 so that your rates aren’t affected at your next renewal period due to making a claim. Also, remember multiple claims can really make your rates skyrocket, or even cause your insurer to non-renew at the end of your policy because you’re now viewed to be too much of a risk.
Collision and comprehensive coverages follow the car, not the driver. If someone borrows your car and has an accident while driving, your car insurance policy will be used to process the claims – which will likely affect your future rates.
Regardless of who is at fault in an accident, you can make a collision claim. Your deductible will be due and then the repairs or total loss of your vehicle will be paid out, up to the car’s actual cash value amount.
If the other party is at fault, you have the choice of putting the claim through the other party’s property damage liability coverage or through your collision coverage. You may want to file a claim under your collision coverage instead of the at-fault party’s insurance if the other driver’s limits are low and may not cover your repairs or the total loss of your vehicle.
If you claim through your collision coverage, your car insurance company should subrogate (pursue) the other party or his insurance company for compensation. As part of the subrogation process, your insurer will normally try to recoup your deductible amount for you.
If you’re leasing or financing a car, normally you would have had to add the lender to your policy as an additional insured and loss payee. That means your lender will be named on your settlement check and would have to endorse it.
Some lienholders will sign the check over and allow you to use the money to make the repairs with that money, others will keep the check until you prove the repairs have been made and then sign the settlement check over to you.
Comprehensive claims are made for incidents that are almost always out of your control – someone breaking into your car, hail damage, or your vehicle hitting a deer. Because of this, comprehensive claims generally won’t increase your rates, unless state laws say otherwise. However, multiple claims of any kind can put you at risk for non-renewal or affect your rates eventually, such as three comprehensive claims in three years.
A comprehensive claim is made the same way as a claim for collision: call your insurer and explain the damage to your vehicle and how it happened. Your insurance company will make certain the event is covered and walk you through the claims process, including how to get estimates for your damage and how and when your deductible will be due.
For either a comp or collision claim, you generally can pick whatever repair shop you want, unless you have agreed with your insurance company to use a preferred shop (usually for a reduction in your premium). If your car is financed or leased, you’ll normally need a licensed mechanic to make the repairs. If you own your car outright, you may be able to repair the car yourself and keep any extra claim money. However, if you’re not able to make proper repairs or choose not to make the repairs and pocket the money, future claims could be denied or paid at a lower amount because the initial damage wasn’t repaired correctly.
If your vehicle is deemed a total loss, you will be offered actual cash value (ACV) for it. ACV is what your car was worth the moment before it was wrecked. You may not agree with the amount your car insurance company offers you for your totaled vehicle, which it determines using proprietary software, plus pricing guides like the National Automobile Dealers Association guide book and Kelley Blue Book.
The best way for you to determine your car’s ACV is by looking at the same pricing guides, as well as local sales of the same year model and make as the car you lost. If you find evidence your car is worth more than the amount you’re offered, show that proof to your insurance company to negotiate a higher settlement amount. Your full settlement amount should include taxes and fees you paid at purchase, since you’ll pay similar fees for your replacement vehicle.
Your insurance company doesn’t care if you owe more money to your lienholder than its ACV. If your car is worth less than the amount you owe, you need to obtain gap insurance. Gap insurance pays the difference between the ACV paid out by an insurance company for the total loss of your car and the amount you still owe the leasing or finance company.
If you’ve kept your vehicle for a long time, past 10 years usually, your vehicle’s worth may have fallen so much that the cost of comprehensive and collision is no longer worth it.
Consider dropping comp and collision if the following situations apply:
- When comprehensive and collision premiums reach 10 percent or more of the potential payoff of these coverages. The potential payoff is your vehicle’s actual cash value minus your deductible. For example, if your car is worth $3,000 and your deductible is $500, your potential payoff is $2,500. If your annual comp and collision premiums surpass $250, it’s time to drop them.
- If your annual comp and collision premiums plus deductible add up to more than the value of your car.
- At the point where you wouldn’t pay to fix your car if it had mechanical issues. Instead of paying for comp and collision, use the money to help build your savings for a newer car.
Typically, the coverages you have on your car insurance policy – liability as well as comprehensive and collision – extend to a rental car that you have for pleasure (not business). There are some charges, such as a loss-of-use charge, that may or may not be covered. A loss-of-use charge is a fee the rental company will charge you for being unable to rent out the car during its repair period.
Before renting a car, contact your insurer and check if your policy works on a rental car and understand the limitations. Remember, if you do make a claim on a rental car, it’s still a claim on your insurance which can affect your future rates.
1. You rear-end another vehicle. You and the other driver are both taken to the hospital to treat minor injuries. Your car is financed.
If you are deemed at fault in the accident, your property damage liability pays for the damages to the other driver’s car while your bodily injury liability coverage takes care of his or her injuries – up to your limits for both. For your vehicle, collision coverage would cover your damages, minus your deductible. Your finance company will mandate that you get the car fixed.
For your injuries to be covered by car insurance, you’d need personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments (MedPay). Otherwise, your personal health care coverage would be in play. If you have both, the auto insurance medical coverage is primary.
2. A co-worker’s car door hits your leased car in the parking lot and leaves a dent and scratches.
Your co-worker’s property damage liability coverage should cover this incident. No deductible is due because you’re making a claim through someone else’s policy. If your co-worker was uninsured, then you could make a collision claim, but your deductible would be due. If the damage was minor and under your deductible amount, you would have to negotiate with your co-worker to get him or her to personally pay for repair costs.
3. Your newly licensed teen misjudges a corner and plows your financed car into a fire hydrant.
This is a collision claim for the damage to your vehicle and a liability claim for the cost of fire hydrant repairs and water loss, which can be expensive.
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